“We Can Be a Metal Band But Still Stay True to Our Hardcore Roots”: In Conversation with Power Trip vocalist Riley Gale

By Andrew Bansal

Dallas, Texas thrash/crossover/hardcore punk group Power Trip have taken the world of heavy music by storm in 2017 and have grabbed the genre by its throat with their sophomore full-length ‘Nightmare Logic’, released February 24th via Southern Lord Recordings. The quintet has shown great improvement and progress since the 2013 debut album ‘Manifest Decimation’, in both songwriting and production, and ‘Nightmare Logic’ truly comes across as an album metal needed in the year 2017. Just before departing for their ongoing extensive North American headline tour, vocalist Riley Gale spoke to Metal Assault about the writing and recording process, what he has done differently on vocals, what he learned from Lamb Of God singer Randy Blythe, and Power Trip’s status as a metal band. Enjoy the conversation below, let your ears bleed from ‘Nightmare Logic’, and rage with Power Trip at a show near you soon!

Riley, it’s great to finally have Power Trip on Metal Assault for an interview. Your new album ‘Nightmare Logic’ comes out on February 24th. It’s the first full-length since the 2013 debut. How long did you guys actually work on these particular songs?

I would say probably about two years ago is when we started to really put it together. Now, you have to understand that we’re touring the whole time, so a lot of it was put together in moments when we had time off from the road or something like that. Our drummer Chris Ulsh also has two or three other bands, so when we’re not on tour, he’s out on the road with them. That also slows the writing process for Power Trip. But Blake (Ibanez, guitarist), even had some riffs and ideas leftover and I had some lyrical ideas carried over from ‘Manifest Decimation’, so we would get together and jam out a little bit, but I would say July-August 2015 was when we really wrote the meat of this new album. And then we went into the studio over the course of late 2015 and into 2016 to finish it up. The writing and recording processes took about a year each. But if we actually crammed all of that time together and moved all of it into one space, it probably took about 2-3 months worth of work! But the stuff was spread out because of all the touring we do.

I think ‘Manifest Decimation’ stands strong for what it is and it had that raw sound, but I think on ‘Nightmare Logic’ the production really highlights the progress you guys have made as musicians, and the extent to which you guys have improved. Would you agree that this new album is better produced in that sense?

Oh yeah, absolutely. Thank you for noticing that as well. We’ve gotten our skills up, and with ‘Manifest’ it was the first time Blake and I had ever recorded an LP. Chris Ulsh had before, with Mammoth Grinder and stuff, but Blake and I had never done an LP, so it was a very big learning experience for both of us. I’d never been in a studio long enough to get comfortable with my vocals, and so I learned a lot about what I wanted to do vocally, who I wanted to be, what I wanted to sound like, and things like that. Arthur Rizk is just an incredible producer. When you talk about production, that is something that we were laser-focussed on, to make sure that everything sounded the way we wanted it to. We didn’t just try to do things, we actually pulled everything off that we wanted to do with this album. It’s a little cleaner at some points but rougher on the edges. There’s a little more polish on it. It’s not as crazy drenched in reverb and delay, and I didn’t put much of that at all on my vocals because I feel like  my voice has got stronger as a musician. I had more confidence to do more things. In terms of songwriting, I think Chris and Blake just did a really good job of condensing what we did on ‘Manifest’ into tighter, better-woven songs. When you’re making a sauce, sometimes you’ve got to leave it on the boiler and reduce it a little. Sometimes you’ve got to trim the fat. These are just metaphors for trying to make the songs faster, heavier and catchier, and having good transitions and things like that. But yeah, I think we really pulled it off doing what we wanted to do. Our #1 goal was to make something shorter and better than ‘Manifest’, we did that, and I think the dudes are happy with the outcome.

You should be! You said that vocally you got stronger which is also one thing people can hear on this album, but was there anything you were trying to do differently in terms of the vocal styling, or did you simply just get better over the years?

You know, it wasn’t like I came in with something in mind that I wanted to sound like this or do this. I wanted my delivery to be smoother, though. I feel like I dragged some of my lines and didn’t have a lot of time to play with  different deliveries on the first album. I felt kind of rushed, vocally, because it was something that we really needed to get done. So I didn’t get to really sit on the songs and think about how I could do certain parts. It was frustrating, and I had to go back and redo a lot of things. But with ‘Nightmare Logic’, I had a lot of time. I had rough demos earlier on to think of vocal ideas and things like that. When we got into the studio, we had more time to talk about song structures and vocal timing. I could show him my vision for a song if I saw a song a different way. I ended up rewriting a lot of the lyrics. There are a couple of songs in there that I had to rewrite 5-6 times, but it made for something really good in the outcome. I just tried to deliver every line strong and smooth as a guy yelling could do. I’m happy with what I did!

You said it earlier, and obviously a lot of people know about the fact that you guys are a very actively touring band. Even though that slows down the album process, but I’m sure it also helps you because you’re always in that mindset of performing, specially when it comes to recording. How much did that help you on this record?

You know what’s great about that, I had just done the Lamb Of God-Anthrax tour when I recorded the bulk of the vocals. I did some stuff before that tour and we kept some of it, but I ended up going back and doing some more and re-tracking. Being on those big stages and being able to actually hear yourself on the monitor every night, that had a huge impact on me paying attention to how I sounded on stage every night, which made me a stronger vocalist. And watching Randy Blythe, I was learning how to breathe and yell from my diaphragm or from my throat. I was starting to find the balance between how to actually use my body as an instrument and just getting up there and yelling. I could get up there and hear if I let out a bad note. So, being able to have this big boy sound because of playing in big boy venues and have these good sound systems where we got to soundcheck and really hear our monitors, I focussed more on myself vocally and what I was doing. Therefore when I took that into the studio, it produced better results. It made my voice stronger, or more shredded, depending on how you look at it.

That’s very interesting, man. You mentioned Randy Blythe there and how you learned from observing him perform. Did you also get a chance to talk to him about these things at all?

He and I did talk about it, but it wasn’t something conscious that I approached him about. I did watch him a lot. I think I watched them every night, and just seeing how he held his body out when he was doing some specific thing, or the way that he would use his higher voice mixed with a lower one, and things like that. So yeah, I just paid attention to the subtle things that he was doing, and even though we did have a discussion on singing at some point, I came away from that tour learning a lot more from just watching him perform. It was very cool, just being able to see Randy do it at that level. Like me, he’s a guy that actually does loud vocals. A lot of guys don’t go as loud but it still sounds crazy, but I actually go up there and yell and scream and blow my voice out. Randy does too, so it was a good thing watching a guy who’s a consummate professional do that. Not just vocally, but I learned a lot on that tour about what goes on behind the scenes at such big shows, and it was an educational experience hanging out with those guys.

That was a pretty big metal tour for you guys, probably the biggest one you had done at that point. You have also toured with other types of bands, like hardcore punk, for example Terror. But now do you think that you are more accessible to the metal crowd than you were in the beginning with the first album?

I started thinking about the band around the time we signed up with Southern Lord and through the release of ‘Manifest’. That album did way better than anybody in the band thought it would. I didn’t expect anybody to call it a modern classic or anything. Multiple people have, and it’s flattering and I don’t know if I agree, but it’s good to have nice things said about you. I always said that if you put us in a room with people who like aggressive music, they’ll walk away liking something about my band. I don’t think we do anything that isn’t what aggressive music is at its core. Hardcore and punk have a lot to do with that, but we have riffs that at times are technical and very fast. We put a lot of focus on songwriting. So, I knew that when we did a big metal tour, we were going to do really well. And I’m not trying to sound like I’m cocky or overconfident, I just really believed in our sound. It touches on all the things that I love about heavy music growing up, when I first started listening to Metallica, Sepultura and Slayer. And coming back around as a connoisseur, I guess, a person that loves all kinds of heavy music, I can still say that these albums are actually universally good. I don’t think that someone could sit there and make an argument that ‘Kill ‘Em All’ or ‘Master of Puppets’ is a bad album, by anybody’s standard. So we’re trying to go out and something like that. I’m not trying to compare us to those albums, but what I’m essentially saying is that we kind of hit that nostalgia beat for some people but we still do it our own way, so we have this ‘best of both worlds’ thing where we can still stay true to our roots and that sort of attitude. But we can be a metal band. We can do this, because we figured out a way to make music we really like that is still challenging for the listener and at the same time has its hardcore roots. I’ve always had a lot of confidence in my guys, that we could be a full-time band and we could do this essentially because of how good our songs are.

Power Trip links: facebook | twitter | instagram | bandcamp

Related MA link: Album Review: Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

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Power Trip remaining North American tour dates:
03/10/2017 – Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground %
03/11/2017 – Detroit, MI @ Marble Bar %
03/12/2017 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s %
03/13/2017 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock %
03/14/2017 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews %
03/16/2017 – Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room %
03/17/2017 – Oklahoma City, OK @ 89th Street Collective %
03/25/2017 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk %
03/26/2017 – Dallas, TX @ South by So What?
03/27/2017 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister ^#
03/28/2017 – Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater ^#
03/29/2017 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Beehive Social Club ^#
03/30/2017 – Boise, ID @ WavePOP House ^#
03/31/2017 – Tacoma, WA @ Real Art Tacoma, The Deal ^#~
04/01/2017 – Vancouver, BC @ Astoria ^#~
04/02/2017 – Portland, OR @ Analog Theater ^
04/04/2017 – Santa Rosa, CA @ Arlene Francis Center !^
04/06/2017 – Oakland, CA @ The New Parish !#
04/07/2017 – San Jose, CA @ The Ritz !^
04/08/2017 – Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom !^
04/10/2017 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah !^
04/11/2017 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge !^
04/12/2017 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress !^
% = w/ Iron Reagan
* = w/ Genocide Pact
+ = w/ Concealed Blade
& = w/ Krimewatch
$ = w/ Protestor
^ = w/ Destruction Unit
# = w/ Primal Rite
~ = w/ Gag
! = w/ Mizery